Qatar urged to build the UK’s Northern Powerhouse

David Cameron has asked the Emir of Qatar to put billions of pounds into creating a Northern Powerhouse and east west High Speed Rail.

The Shard, London

The Prime Minister met with the Emir on Wednesday night to look at how Qatar, which has ploughed some £20bn into the UK in recent years, could become an even bigger investor in the UK’s list of much-needed infrastructure projects.

Downing Street said the PM specifically highlighted the Conservative’s “Northern Powerhouse” proposal with a plea to invest in infrastructures and manufacturing.

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The Qatari royal family’s sovereign wealth fund has already bought up or invested in some of the UK’s biggest firms and sites, with stakes in Sainsbury’s and Heathrow Airport while pouring cash into the Shard tower block in London and buying up the Harrod’s store outright.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister welcomed recent Qatari investment of over £20bn in Britain and encouraged the Emir to consider more opportunities across the country, particularly the Government’s plan to establish a Northern Powerhouse by connecting our great Northern cities and the development of high speed rail. They also discussed the opportunities for British businesses in Qatar, notably in the development of hospitals and universities.

While Mr Cameron will be hoping the multi-billion pound fund could help create an economic revival in the north, based on a new high speed railway, the Qatari family have always insisted their investment decisions are based purely on the expected return rather than political considerations.

The Northern Powerhouse project was first raised by Chancellor George Osborne, who has committed the party to shrinking the North South divide if it wins in 2015.

Investment in the north is already set to be a General Election battleground, with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg pushing a Northern futures plan to set out a new generation of devolution and investment in the region.

A spokesman for No 10 added: “Also discussed was the 2022 World Cup and the Prime Minister offered to share the UK’s expertise in the construction industry to support the development of the facilities for this global football event. The Prime Minister also raised long standing consular cases, including that of Adam Jones, and the Emir agreed to follow up on this.

“On international affairs, they discussed the role both countries are playing in the coalition to tackle ISIL, and the importance of all countries working to tackle extremism and support to terrorist organisations. The Prime Minister welcomed the recent legislation passed in Qatar to prevent terrorist funding and looked forward to the swift implementation of these new measures. They also agreed that both countries should do more to share information on groups of concern.”